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114H (1)Any time people see me on a regular basis, I’m limping. Or I’ve got gauze around my arm from an infusion. Or I’m using a cane – sometimes even crutches.

So when they see me, their natural instinct is always to tell me about their own illnesses. Of course, they mean well. They believe that by doing this, they’re showing concern for my well-being. But honestly, I’m not too fond of the fact that I’ve come to symbolize pain to them.

When I think about it, I really don’t know anything meaningful about them. I see the cashier at the store once a week, and I know about her infirmities in great detail. But what of the dream in her heart, perhaps it was to be a dancer in a ballet troupe? Or maybe she wanted to own a little flower shop, selling peonies and zinnias. Why is it that tragedy and turmoil have become the “greatest hits” of our lives, when somebody asks us who we are?

The dream in my own heart is to find a way to embody hope and not pain. I want to become so connected with positivity and encouragement that those I encounter at the mall or the post office don’t have time to tell me their problems.  They’ll be too busy counting off their blessings for me!

I want to tell them to pack all their troubles in an old kit bag.  Then I want them to drop that bag into the sea of forgetfulness. I don’t want them to carry that bag around with them, as if this is the sum total of who they are. Life doesn’t stop at the moment something bad happened, so don’t make those horrible things the point at which you stop living. The path goes on far beyond the pain.

So please, people.  When you see me, don’t mention that I seem more wobbly than usual. Compliment me on my new purple sneakers! Don’t reel off your aches and pains to me. Tell me about your grandkids and your garden. Talk to me about your most cherished dreams, the wonder of a sunset, that beautiful sonata that lights you up when you hear it.

On this day, when we remember those taken from us on that indelible morning thirteen years ago, there’s something we can do in their memory. Don’t dwell on your troubles. Don’t stay stuck in the past. For the sake of those we lost, let’s live.

We’ve heard there are stages of mourning.
On a stage this morning in New York City,
a procession of politicians tried to comfort us with words.
Family members of the victims spoke at the podium.
Bagpipes played, the Brooklyn Youth Choir sang.
It was as close as we could get to closure.
We aren’t sure how to feel, or how to go on.
But since there’s no template, we have to wing it.
We miss you.
We love you.
We wish you were still with us.
We pray for you every day.
That you are safe now.
That you have a place to rest.
That there is no pain.
That you are treasured, honored and embraced, forever.
We will never forget you.
Amen.

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